Monday, April 15, 2024

Cody Bellinger returns to Cubs; Examining the Kyle Filipowski court-storm fiasco

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🐻 Good morning to everyone but especially …


After a resurgent season, Cody Bellinger was looking for a home. And the Cubs — the team he had that resurgent season with — were looking for a bat. The match seemingly made in heaven became the match made in reality late Saturday, with Bellinger and the Cubs agreeing to a three-year, $80 million deal.

Bellinger, 28, slashed .307/.356/.535 in his first season in Chicago, the batting average representing a career high and the on-base and slugging percentages his best since his 2019 MVP season with the Dodgers. He also finally stayed healthy, which helped, and there are plenty of reasons the Cubs should believe his success will continue, Dayn Perry says.

If you’re wondering why it took until well into spring training for a player of Bellinger’s caliber to sign, you’re not alone. And there are still big names out there — particularly Blake SnellJordan Montgomery and Matt Chapman, all of whom were among our top 10 free agents and all of whom are Scott Boras clients. R.J. Anderson predicted what happens to the rest of the “Boras Four.”

  • Anderson: “At the risk of reading too much into a single data point, Bellinger’s contract raises the possibility that Boras is open to accepting shorter-than-anticipated deals at this stage of the process. Bellinger had been expected to receive five-plus years heading into the offseason, according to several public estimates. … It would make a certain sense on paper, particularly for Snell and Chapman. Both have been high-quality performers, yet each has a risky profile.”

👍 Honorable mentions

😬 And not such a good morning for …

Duke v Wake Forest

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A Wake Forest team sitting on the bubble welcomed No. 8 Duke to town Saturday. In front of a raucous crowd, the Demon Deacons and Blue Devils went back-and-forth with 14 lead changes and 14 ties, magnificent shot-making and heroic efforts. Wake Forest won, 83-79, behind 29 points from super transfer Hunter Sallis and some key stops late to get on the right side of the bubble in Jerry Palm’s estimation.

It was regular-season college basketball at its very best, the perfect cure for the post-Super Bowl, pre-March Madness sports doldrums.

Until it wasn’t.

What happened between Kyle Filipowski and court-storming fans is unacceptable. A fan careening into Filipowski’s knee — causing the Blue Devils’ star big man to keel over in pain and be escorted out by a plethora of Duke personnel — should never, ever happen. But it did. And now we have to deal with the fallout.

You can watch the incident however you want — different speeds and angles. Kyle Boone did just that and has an excellent breakdown. As chaos unfolds around him, Filipowski puts his arms out, sure, but, again, he should never be in this situation. Plus, he’s allowed to protect himself. Once he got clipped, getting him off the court became hectic and dangerous. Jon Scheyer did not know Filipowski’s status moving forward.

As Kyle pointed out, there were fans on the court before the buzzer even sounded. This is far from the only court-storming incident this season, but this is the most damaging one so far. Postgame, Scheyer asked, “When are we going to ban court-storming?”

I’ve been a proponent of court-storming for a long time, citing that it’s super fun, something that distinguishes college sports from the pros, etc. I no longer think that. There just aren’t solutions. I’ve seen coaches pull players seconds early (something Scheyer couldn’t do because of the close nature of the game), and Scheyer noted there was a delay in court-storming when he played. But that puts far too much unnecessary responsibility on coaches (it’s not their job), players (it’s also not their job), security personnel (overwhelmed), and thousands of rambunctious fans (uh … good luck controlling them).

Court-storming is fun when done correctly. But it can’t be done correctly. And a season-defining win for Wake Forest becoming a side story — rather than the story — was the sad result.

There was, however, excellent action elsewhere around the country:

👎 Not so honorable mentions

  • Here are the suspensions from Friday night’s brawl between the Heat and Pelicans: Jimmy Butler, Naji Marshall and Nikola Jovic got one game; Thomas Bryant and Jose Alvarado got three.
  • Draymond Green unloaded on Grant Williams.
  • Cam Newton was involved in a fight at a 7-on-7 football tournament.
  • Kylian Mbappe was booed by PSG fans in his first appearance since he announced he’ll leave the club this summer.
  • Weston McKennie had two assists Sunday for Juventus … but also dislocated his shoulder.
  • Malocolm Dandridge will sit as Memphis investigates potential academic misconduct.

 🏀 Top storylines for the NBA’s stretch run


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We’re inside six weeks until the end of the NBA regular season, and that has Brad Botkin zeroing in on key storylines between now and the season’s end on April 14. I went over a few when the NBA returned from the All-Star break last week, but Brad does an excellent job going way more in-depth. One of my favorites is …

  • Botkin: “Are the Knicks a matchup nobody wants to see in the first couple rounds or a legitimate threat to challenge for a spot in the Finals? I’ll tell you this: Bojan Bogdanovic, who had five 3s in his Knicks debut, and Donte DiVincenzo on opposite sides is a lot of space for Jalen Brunson to operate. OG Anunoby is a premier playoff defender. Isaiah Hartenstein protects the rim and rebounds like a madman, and there’s still an outside chance that Mitchell Robinson makes it back for the playoffs. Toughness. Shooting. Rim protection. A creation wizard in Brunson. A one-on-one bully in Julius Randle. A top-10 offense and defense. The marks of at least a fringe contender are all there. Might the Knicks be even better than that?”

🤕 Trae Young to miss at least four weeks with finger injury


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Hawks All-Star guard Trae Young will miss at least four weeks due to a ligament tear in his left pinkie. He suffered the injury in Friday’s loss to the Raptors.

  • Young is averaging 26.4 points and 10.8 assists this season, the only player averaging at least 25 points and 10 assists. He’s on pace to join Russell Westbrook and Oscar Robertson as the only players to do so in consecutive seasons.
  • The Hawks (25-32) are currently 10th in the Eastern Conference, 3.5 games ahead of the Nets for the final play-in spot. Atlanta has the NBA’s 10th-best offense, in large part thanks to Young’s excellence, but are also last in defense, an area where Young struggles but had improved, Brad noted earlier this month.

The Hawks have disappointed, and the Young-Dejounte Murray guard pairing hasn’t consistently worked like Atlanta envisioned when it shelled out for Murray in 2022. Young has been the subject of trade rumors recently, too, given the team’s struggles. Now he’ll have to hope his teammates can keep things together before what will surely be an interesting offseason.

📺 What we’re watching Monday

🏀 Raptors at Pacers, 7 p.m. on NBA TV
🏀 Miami at No. 10 North Carolina (M), 7 p.m. on ESPN
🏀 No. 11 Baylor at TCU (M), 9 p.m. on ESPN
🏀 No. 11 Colorado at No. 12 UCLA (W), 9 p.m. on ESPN2
🏀 Heat at Kings, 10 p.m. on NBA TV
USWNT vs. Mexico, 10:15 p.m. on Paramount+

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